Funny Girl Review

June 21, 2017 by Claire Cosgrove

We all know that we buy a ticket to see a show and not a particular artist, but there were still the inevitable groans when people discovered that Sheridan Smith would not be taking the lead role of Fanny Brice during the Southend run of Funny Girl. All over their social media pages and numerous posters around the auditorium, The Cliff’s had done a great job notifying everyone ahead of the day that Smith was signed off with mumps.

Smith’s sell-out London run was also blighted with illness which had a least meant the producers were under pressure to find a bloody brilliant alternate/understudy to keep the crowds happy. If you fear that the show won’t be the same without Sheridan Smith, think again. Natasha J Barnes is a tour de force and gives the performance of her life in this wonderful show. Never underestimate the power of a professionally trained actor, at the top of their game.

In all honesty, the biggest shoes to fill were not Smith’s but Barbara Streisand’s, who created the role 50 years ago and shot her to global fame.

It’s a great story; rich in narrative with a fabulous score to boot. The musical tells the story of Fanny Brice, whose vocal talents and comedic ability see her rise from Brooklyn music hall singer to Broadway star. On her journey, Brice falls in love with Nick Arnstein, played by the rather wonderful Darius Campbell, who occupies the role with dashingly handsome panache. He towers over his co-star, smoothly seducing her with his disarmingly warm baritone voice. The chemistry between them is evident, making their final heart break seem that little bit more real.

It’s funny and kooky and packed with some of the most iconic songs in film and theatre history, including People and the show stopping, Don’t Rain On My Parade. You’ll be surprised by just how many you know.

With wonderful dancing, singing, colour and flair, this is fantastic show lives up to all the hype that has come before.